Thriving cities depend on the adventurous among us, who alter the urban landscape when they forge their own successful paths.
Each month, we ask an influential San Diegan: What was it like for you in the beginning?
Live: East Village
Work: East Village
How Long: 18 years
Projects: Underbelly, Craft & Commerce Expansion, Car 2 Go San Diego and Washington D.C., Delux Dog, Prana, Core Power Yoga (all West Coast locations)
What was the defining moment that propelled you to start your own business?
I was sitting with a friend in a café about 20 years ago on some barstools made out of rebar and thought the idea of the reuse of such a simple material was interesting. At the time, I was helping my brother’s construction company’s concrete division and thought, here is a ton (literally) of dropped material we typically threw away. So I began making all kinds of furniture and objects with the leftover rebar, and sold it mostly in resale stores. After a while, my objects were selling enough where I thought “what the hell, cut out the middleman and open a store.” So, I opened Basile Gallery in 1994 and offered a refuge for local artists to display their work along with my furniture and objects. After a few requests to custom build some pieces the projects kept getting larger and larger. After a while, the furniture gig took a back seat and I was just designing and building custom architectural details, furniture for fun.
What struggles did you face starting out?
In my early career, there was hardly an art community and even less of an art buying community. So for all artists it was difficult to get work and even more difficult getting paid enough to live. Now, as a designer and builder, the main issue has and will always be expansion. The amount of effort to have three to four businesses running simultaneously is difficult to finance and very difficult to manage. I have a hard time sitting still so the struggle always exists. It’s never easy.
What was the riskiest move you ever made?
I sold everything I had to start my business and had no fall back position, but the most risky is an everyday occurrence really. We are always taking risks with the projects we design and somehow figure out how to build. It’s a fun risk once you get down to it.
If you could change the past, is there anything involving your career that you would do differently?
Nothing, really. Everything that has put me in this position, no matter how difficult, was for a reason and I respect it.
Could you ever go back to a “normal job,” working for someone else?
I have been on my own too long, I can’t even imagine it.
What personality traits must an entrepreneur possess?
The ability to make quick, logical decisions. An open mind and consideration of all avenues, not leaving anything on the table. Approachable to all. I guess, be likeable (not sure if I fit this one). Stay in tune with what’s happening in your field, adjust and always redefine. Go with your gut feeling on the big decisions.
In the beginning, if you could have had a glimpse into where your work is today, what three words describe how you might have felt?
• Refined – Not over designed.
• Exhaustive – I have always believed you should think through every possibility until you have exhausted the idea. The tediousness of the action makes you certain.
• Crafted – All details, from design, to build, to installation, to function, to aesthetics satisfy the need for having it exist.